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The Closed Circle Hardcover – May 24, 2005

16 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. The Rotters' Club (2002), Coe's witty novel of teenage schoolmates growing up in 1970s Birmingham, England, introduced an expansive cast of characters. With echoes of Anthony Trollope and Anthony Powell, this wonderful, compulsively readable sequel explores the adults those young people became—it opens in 1999 and closes in 2003—and paints a satirical but moving portrait of life at the turn of the century. Claire Newman still mourns her sister, who vanished without a trace in The Rotters' Club. Benjamin Trotter still mourns his one true (teenage) love. His brother, Paul, is an ambitious member of Parliament in "Blair's Brave New Britain." Doug Anderton and Philip Chase became journalists, and the first book's other characters all reappear in some way or another (along with flashbacks to many of their teenage escapades). Coe cleverly works real events into the plot—London's Millennium Eve, the possible shutdown of a British auto manufacturer, the war in Iraq. The theme, as in The Rotters' Club, concerns the conflicts and connections between individual decisions and societal events, but while Coe's political sensibility is readily apparent, this novel, with its incredibly well developed characters and its immensely engaging narrative, is no polemical tract. It's a compelling, dramatic and often funny depiction of the way we live now—both savage and heartfelt at the same time. (May 31)

From The New Yorker

In this sequel to "The Rotters' Club," Paul Trotter wonders, "What sort of country are we living in?" One much changed, Coe is at constant pains to point out, in the twenty-six years since the story began, in nineteen-seventies Birmingham. There are cappuccinos in every café and mobile phones on every ear. The characters, however, remain largely the same. Last seen as a twelve-year-old Thatcherite, Paul is now one of New Labour's rising stars. His older brother Benjamin, the soulful literary aspirant whose concerns drove the first installment, remains obsessed with the school prima donna, whom no one has seen in the intervening years. Others in their group have settled into the usual midlife surprises and disappointments. Coe's knack for capturing an epoch is still strong, but, in contrast to the distant decade of the earlier book, his evocation of turn-of-the-millennium Britain seems very much yesterday's news.
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf (May 24, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375414150
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375414152
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.3 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,740,913 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jonathan Coe is the author of The Winshaw Legacy and nine other novels. His many prizes include the Everyman Wodehouse Prize and the Samuel Johnson Prize.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By **** on October 24, 2005
Format: Hardcover
To truly enjoy this sequel, first read "The Rotter's Club", which introduces the main characters as teenagers attending British public school in Birmingham during the Thatcher regime of the 1970's. It was an era turbulent with labor disputes, IRA bombings, and countless sacrifices from the working class. "The Closed Circle" opens on the eve of the Millenium and continues to the present. The times are ostensibly more liberal with Tony Blair as PM, but has anything really changed? The problems of the working class continue, as the closing of a Land Rover factory threatens the lives of 50,000 workers. Suspicion of immigrants has intensified and led to increased activity by white supremacist groups. Following the tragedy of September 11th Britain joins in a misguided, increasingly unpopular war in Iraq. "The Closed Circle" picks up with the same characters, now 20 years older and struggling with mid-life self-scrutiny, doubts, and re-evaluations of the lives they've chosen. Benjamin Trotter, once brilliant, sympathetic, and full of promise has disappointed himself, his peers, and the reader by becoming a bland accountant. He is suffocating in a loveless, childless marriage to Emily who knows that she was a second choice. She has always been aware that Benjamin never got over beautiful Cicely, the most desirable girl in school who made love to him and then disappeared to America. Everyone expected multi-talented Benjamin to publish books and music scores. After a 20 year obsession with the lost Cicely, we find him blocked, indecisive, and unable to create so much as a haiku. His brother Paul, a smugly precocious 13 year old in "The Rotters Club" is now an MP in Tony Blair's government. He is single mindedly self-serving and careless of how his actions impact the lives of others.Read more ›
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Fuzzbottle on May 28, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Absolutely compelling. Coe is a rare novelist--someone equally concerned with (and in control of) style and storytelling. This novel has humor, wisdom, anger and soul. Unlike Martin Amis, Coe is never guilty of empty pyrotechnics. Unlike McEwan, his characters are human. Yes, Coe and his subject matter are as British as...I dunno, really British stuff. And yes, you should definitely read the Rotter's Club first. And you should absolutely read the Winshaw Legacy, which is probably one of the best British novels of the last 20 years. Get this book now. Do it. Do it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Edward Aycock on November 3, 2006
Format: Paperback
This book is slightly more soapy (or, as some prefer to say, Dickensian) than "The Rotter's Club" and the adult predicaments of the characters a bit less charming, but my admiration for it only falls slightly below my enjoyment of the first book. And to be fair, I think much of my lowered esteem for this novel is because it takes place during the past seven years, years that I have experienced for myself and therefore it gives me less of an outsider looking in perspective and more of a groaning, "Oh god, he's certainly nailed that."

Part 2 in the saga of Ben Trotter and friends finds them in the age of Starbucks, cellphones, Tony Blair and alienation. Paul Trotter, more of a marginal troublemaker in the first novel, has a bigger role here and that proves to be a bit of a stumbling block on Coe's part as Paul's rather unsympathetic. Many of the characters are the same, just older but some of them, like Sean Harding, have developed in rather odd and almost unbelievable ways. To be fair, Coe alluded to this change in the very first pages of "Rotter's Club" but it still seems bizarre. The good news is that Benjamin is still as funny in his ineptness as ever.

The short three-year gap between this and "The Rotter's Club" would have me infer that Coe was probably writing these books in his head simultaneously. Questions from the first book are answered, and long simmering tensions come to a head. The book ends on a bleak, pessimistic note; am I happy with the way things turned out for everybody? Not really, but that's life. The characters are only in their 40s, and if Coe wanted to one day write more about them, I'll be one of the first in line in the States to get it.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By John Sollami on August 22, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Yes, but read The Rotter's Club first, which will throw you into Coe's 1970s in Birmingham, England. Then move on to this sometimes funny, sometimes melancholic, and always entertaining sequel that paints a disturbing portrait of British life up to 2003. Fiction and reality begin to merge as the overpowering political and economic events of our time, topmost being the American invasion of Iraq, begin to press onto the lives of these complex characters. No question that Amis and McEwan present contrivances, whereas Coe gives us real life in all its messy, comic, and tragic details. Nostalgia and the past play critical roles for Coe's generation of characters as they strive to deal with their personal histories, the persistence of which continuously shapes present events. And Coe labors to point out that the larger issues of terrorism, the disastrous American and British Iraqi war, and the grossness of corporate greed are also shaped by unresolved events of the past. In the end, the circle closes on the lives of everyone here in this novel as they resolve or understand what happened before. It will be interesting to see what Coe will write about, now that these characters seem to be written out of his system. And it's true, as one of the reviewers said here, The Winshaw Legacy, or What a Carve Up! is a terrific work! Read Jonathan Coe! Do it now!
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